Kerry
US secretary of state John Kerry meets Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in JerusalemReuters

US secretary of state John Kerry has slammed Israel's continued insistence that the Palestinians should publicly say that Israel is a Jewish state.

At a Congressional hearing, Kerry, who is fighting hard to restart peace talks in the Middle East after a three-year hiatus, said that the UN and the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat already acknowledged the Jewish nature of Israel.

He added it was a mistake for Israel to keep insisting on it.

"'Jewish state' was resolved in 1947 in (UN) Resolution 181 where there are more than 40-30 mentions of 'Jewish state,'" Kerry argued.

"In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions.

"It's a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear," Kerry said.

In 1988, Arafat allegedly said that the PNC, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's parliament-in-exile at the time, "had accepted two states, a Palestine state and Jewish state". The recording was rebroadcast by Israel public radio following Kerry's comments.

The issue of Israel's status also shadowed David Cameron's visit to Israel and his speech at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, with many Jewish politicians and commentators demanding the British PM call Israel a Jewish state.

Cameron voiced support for a two-state solution in US-brokered peace talks.

"I am here as a good friend and strong supporter of Israel.

"We have seen the British-Israeli relationship go from strength to strength and I am committed to strengthening that relationship still further."

He referred to the country as the "nation state of the Jewish people" as outlined in the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

He spoke Hebrew in the Israeli parliament on one occasion and praised the "extraordinary journey of the Jewish people".